COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Fencing CEO Phil Andrews issued this statement following the vote by the FIE (International Fencing Federation) Extraordinary Congress that resulted in the reinstatement of fencers and officials from Russia and Belarus:
USA Fencing is disappointed, frustrated and disturbed — though not all that surprised — at the outcome of today’s vote, wherein more than 60% of nations voted to allow fencers and officials from Russia and Belarus to return to international fencing competition.
This vote comes just over 100 days after 77% of the members of this same body voted to extend the ban. What has changed in those 104 days? Many will speculate, but one thing is painfully clear: Russia has not ended its unlawful and immoral assault on Ukraine — an invasion that has resulted in thousands of senseless deaths, an unprecedented refugee crisis and the destruction of Ukraine’s sporting infrastructure, notably including the evacuation of its fencing athletes.
Also concerning is the fact that these athletes may be permitted to compete under the flags of Russia and Belarus, subject to IOC recommendations. If this occurs, it would ensure that each international fencing competition includes a painful and divisive visual reminder of the tragedy still unfolding in Ukraine.
Today’s “yes” vote by more than 80 delegates, while not a direct endorsement of Russia’s war, does send a message to the world that a majority of the international fencing community is ready to look the other way and welcome back fencers funded by and supported by the Russian government. Some of these fencers have direct ties to the military, and many have not publicly condemned the atrocities of their government. In addition, welcoming coaches, officials and representatives from Russia and Belarus back to the FIE may see individuals who are directly employed by, or linked to, the Russian government resume their participation as well.
We speak not only for USA Fencing’s Board of Directors and staff but also for our top athletes, who will soon attend international competitions alongside athletes directly or indirectly linked to this tragic war. USA Fencing will work with our Athletes Council and athletes competing internationally to ensure they are supported during this difficult time.
Once again, USA Fencing looks forward to a day where we can welcome Russian and Belorussian fencers back to the piste under peaceful times. We believe that day has not yet arrived.
Our hearts continue to break for the people of Ukraine, and we extend a hand of peace and support to fencers, coaches, officials and all affected by this senseless invasion. We invite our Ukrainian friends within the fencing community to reach out to USA Fencing if we may be of any assistance.
Tag(s): Latest News